29 March, 2008

Under the Genoa... raincloud?

So a few weekends ago I took a trip to Genoa, Italy to visit the Clemson kids there and get a little taste of Italy. What I saw was so unlike all the other cities we've been to thus far. Genoa, like Barcelona, is a port city, yet they are so different. When we first arrived, we were taken up approximately 32346984 awkward and sloped steps to finally reach the villa, and then another two flights up to the bedrooms. The elevation change from the port to the rest of the city is insane, and happens so quickly. It seemed there were so many more cars and bigger roads with less cross-walk signals, which for me is extremely dangerous. The old edifices are completely preserved and loved in Genoa, but not in a touristy way -- they're preserved because there's no other way -- no contemporary architecture , just a subtle appreciation for the buildings and piazzas that are hundreds of years old. We used mainly our feet and the bus system to get around, which is practically based solely on the honor system that you actually pay for your ticket (but when they do check, its a 40€ fine...) We spent a lot of time in the villa, just because once you climb up all the stairs, you don't really want to leave to have to do it all over again. Most of the students spend all their time in the villa too, especially since they have a cook, so are completely not used to spending money on food and getting to know a city that way, which has been one of my favorite aspects about Barcelona. However, we did go out, of course, and it was the first time the 'natives' could take me around their city and show us the ins and outs that they have discovered being there. English was spoken very rarely, and groin vaults dominated the interiors of buildings. Much pasta was consumed, and I found out that Italian McDonald's carry patate vertigo -- absolutely fabulous curly fries. The doner kebabs are comparable to BCNs, but the gelato definitely kicks more butt. Once it begins raining, it doesn't stop. Open markets still function despite the weather, and the merchandise varies from flashy printed underwear to jean jacket vests and gummy candy. The night life isn't quite as extreme as Barcelona, but many more people are willing to tough out the cold and mingle in the streets and piazzas, since they are so conducive for that. Renzo Piano dominates the port landscape -- and don't be convinced when you're told he's actually at the villa party. The Italians are fascinated by Native Americans, and fresh foccacia is out of this world. A very relaxing break, but I love BCN. :)

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